In Which We Black Out The Capitol Lights

Today we welcome our new music editor, Janice Levens. Ms. Levens is a poet and musician living in Los Angeles. She is writing under a pseudonym for reasons that will become clear as soon as 2018. Her reviews will appear every Tuesday until she is suspended from This Recording for social media-related reasons.

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photograph by Shane McCauley

Flyover State

by JANICE LEVENS

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 8.59.19 PMCry, Cry, Cry
Wolf Parade
Dan Boeckner, Spencer Krug, Dante DeCaro & Arlen Thompson
producer John Goodmanson
October 6th on Sub Pop

The voices of Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug sound a lot alike. When we last left Wolf Parade they were fresh off 2010’s astonishing Expo 86, a sterling return to form after 2008’s half-hearted At Mount Zoomer. The best tracks on Expo 86, like “In the Direction of the Moon” and “What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)” were written by Krug, and this trend continues on Cry Cry Cry, a tightly woven studio album by this four-piece of artists who still struggle to reach a cohesive compromise in sound.

Much of Cry Cry Cry was written on Vancouver Island, the warmest part of Canada. Fittingly then, much previous angst has been wrung out of Krug and Boeckner. The man who wrote and performed “I’ll Believe in Anything” on Apologies to the Queen Mary only peeks out from behind the gauze in tracks like the echoing ballad “Am I An Alien Here”, when Krug pretends at being depressed: “Happiness is easy, it’s a story that you tell.” You know he is lying because only a few stanzas later he is complaining about David Bowie being dead.

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photograph by Shane McCauley

Boeckner is somewhat depressed about the U.S. president, but for the most part he seems a lot happier with his first marriage in the rear view mirror. His other project is Operators, and the tracks he produced with Devojka, Sam Brown, and Dustin Hawthorne – free of Krug’s trademark inflections and orchestral effects – seemed a fresh and exciting on 2016’s eclectic Blue Wave.

In Wolf Parade, it is Boeckner who adapts to Krug’s style, and while it is a decent echo of Spencer’s darker use of synthesizers and guitar, his compositions never approach the highs of “Baby Blue.” Still, he gets close on “Flies on the Sun”, because any credible reflection of Spencer Krug is pretty much like looking at God in a puddle. And to be completely fair, he is a far better live singer than Krug and his voice is substantially improved from when Wolf Parade originally formed.

Despite his experimentation with his solo-ish project Moonface, Krug’s songwriting retains a morbid core, like apples that differ only in color and taste. Even Krug’s more frivolous songs like “Valley Boy” still touch on the vague sadness that is the inevitable consequence of interacting with people he does not respect. As usual, Krug’s lyrics manage to come across as devastating and sincere even when they approach the absurd, as they do on “Lazarus Online” when he suggests, “Let’s rage against the light.” It is meant to be hokey – “like getting punched in the heart” – but it is still weaker than anything you would find on 2005’s Apologies to the Queen Mary, a masterpiece that included the best selections of Krug’s early work.

On “You’re Dreaming” Krug sings, “Never mind the time/I’m up all night with the century ghosts/They don’t have a mind/They would never think of leaving/And we’re dreaming.” You see, once you achieve your dream, as Krug has with his considerable, deserved success, all you can actually do from then on out is imagine what it would be like if that dream had never come true. Krug explains it would be “just like life,” except not. “Scenes of shattered glass, all your systems in collapse.” Krug, we can infer, is waiting for some future tragedy to arrive so that he can become beautiful again. Cry Cry Cry, then, is like a self-contained snow globe of potential sorrow, one that can only come true by being shattered in retrospect.

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Janice Levens is the music editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles.

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